We call them secrets because so few people seem to appreciate how important they are to body language. Each of the ten “secrets” listed below deserves a whole section but hopefully this page will provide a basic introduction.
This is the technique of consciously using your body language to mirror the subconscious movements and gestures of others – in a way that is subtle and unnoticed at their conscious level. This body language can include gestures, vocal tones, breathing rate, posture, attentiveness and even facial-expressions. It is important that you do not “copy cat” their motions as this will quickly become noticeable. The trick is to use similar body language postures or gestures approximately ten seconds after they have. It is harder to do than it sounds and requires practice to appear casual and natural. Mirroring is an important secret because it occurs naturally when people are building a positive rapport and by deliberately doing it you can send an encouraging message that strengthens the developing relationship.
According to NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) experts, this technique will build trust and liking in the person with whom you are communicating. You can apparently measure the success of your mirroring if, after a while, you introduce gestures that the other person hasn’t used and then they start to subconsciously copy you. It is at this point you can express your own desires and intentions with the greatest likelihood of the other person being agreeable. Both conscious and subconscious mirroring is most often seen in romantic and business situations where the relationship that is being established is fundamental to the success of the endeavour.
(Aquiziam footnote: We decided to test this technique to see if it really worked. We used it in several social situations and deliberately mirrored the actions of people we had just met. In all cases the communication flowed easily and a positive rapport was established. In an equal number of instances we deliberately, but with subtlety, tried to use posture and gestures that were the opposite of those that our test subjects had just used. In all cases the communication was uncomfortable and in four out of five cases the person with whom we were communicating left as soon as they could do so. We realise that our own autosuggestion may have influenced the outcome of the test but it was interesting and seemed to indicate that mirroring does have a definite effect.)
The shape and condition of your body sends a message whether you want it to or not. It has become so socially and politically “incorrect” to comment or judge people based on their body form that this aspect of non-verbal communication is often ignored in explanations and teaching – but not in reality.
The secret is this: Humans do consciously and subconsciously judge others in this way. Pretending that they don’t won’t make it go away. If you see a very fat person then it is often (but not always) fair to assume that the person probably eats too much and exercises too little. Sometimes these people are very adept at deceiving themselves and others. At some time we’ve all probably heard someone say, “I eat like a bird but the pounds just pile on!” Actually, the truth is that in most cases they do eat like birds – like vultures. What they actually mean is, “I eat like a little bird when other people are watching but on my own I’m happy to eat six pizzas and a whole cake just for lunch.”
Doctors will often admit that they would rather trust what they see in a physical examination rather than what patients tell them. Someone who has well formed muscles and a fit physique probably has self-discipline. Someone who has broad shoulders and a narrow waist is likely to be more confident. Fat people are often physically lazy. Taller people are less likely to exhibit frustration. Of course there are also a lot of myths. There is no evidence that redheads are likely to be more temperamental or that men with heavy eyebrows are untrustworthy. Even so, we still judge people by the way they look. Sometimes the messages change over time. It is true that being overweight did once represent success and wealth when food was scarce and expensive. It is also true that many high-level (successful) company executives do still tend to be overweight. (It’s these damned business lunches!) However, fit and trim is now becoming a greater symbol of success.
PERSONAL BODY LANGUAGE / MOOD TELLS
Some body language is very specific to an individual rather than a group or society. It’s trait that people develop as a response to how they are feeling that has little resemblance to general behaviour. For example; most people are likely to touch their lips or nose when they tell a lie. In the case of a particular boy he would always push his right hand into his back pocket. (Perhaps to stop himself from touching his face?) Once you work out what the body movement means it can become very useful when reading that specific person’s body language. These are often called “Personal Tells”. Almost everyone has them and in most cases we are completely ignorant of their existence as they apply to us personally.
A certain company Chief Executive would always start scratching the tip of his nose if he was irritated by what people were telling him.
A particular woman we know always starts making little sniffing noises if she doesn’t like the food she’s been served in a restaurant.
Perhaps the most unusual example was the case of girl we knew at university. Her boyfriend noticed that whenever she became sexually aroused she would start stroking her left earlobe with the thumb and forefinger of her left hand. Apparently she once said to him: “It’s amazing how you always know when I’m feeling turned-on.” In poker, professionals often study the other players to see if they have personal body language that can be used to “tell” whether they’re holding good or bad cards.
ENVIRONMENT AND BODY LANGUAGE
Environment has a measurable impact on body language and the way that it is displayed and observed. Dilated pupils are often associated with arousal. However, pupils also dilate when it is dark. It is for this reason that candlelight has become associated with romance. In a study of theatre audiences it was found that actors performed better if the theatre seating was comfortable for the audience. The reason for this was that if the seating was uncomfortable the audience tended to fidget and sit awkwardly. Some even sat in a hostile way with their arms folded. The stage actors could see this negative body language and it impacted on their confidence. Even though the negative body language was irritation with the seating it still had an influence on the rest of the audience and the actors even though it wasn’t aimed at them.
The fact is that people react to their environments by displaying responsive body language. People cross their arms when they are defensive but they also cross them when they are cold. The landlords of pubs and bars know that their guests like to feel comfortable when they go out for a drink. They don’t want to see everyone standing around with their arms crossed. For this reason owners make sure that their bars are “warm and inviting”.
Whenever we smile, frown or use some other facial expression the skin on our face moves and compresses into lines (creases). In young people the high elasticity of the skin means that the when the expression changes the lines disappear. However as people get older, and the skin becomes less elastic, wrinkles form and very often these wrinkles are indicators of the facial expressions that a person has used most often. Therefore a woman with vertical mouth creases is likely to have spent a great deal of her life pursing her lips – an expression usually associated with disapproval. A Man with deep wrinkles in his forehead caused by frowning may have spent much of his life worrying. There are literally dozens of wrinkles that can be interpreted by the competent face map reader.